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your calls, e-mails and tweets, this week on in-depth. the pair are co-authors of eight books. watch live,s, at noon eastern, on book tv on c-span2. >> next, kevin mattson recounts the presidential election of 1952 and richard nixon checkers speech. the speech was given in response to allegations that nixon misused political funds. and used his dog checkers to tout his every-man status and save this vice presidential nomination. >> good evening, everybody. before we begin, it's okay to come up closer.
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it's not church, synagogue or a mosque. i'm very pleased that our friends from c-span are here. so this will be broadcast at some point. sooner than later, i'm sure. and they always do a great job and want to welcome c-span again to "politicspoliticspolitics an" c-span has added to century civil discourse, and whatever book stores you come to they're generally independents, and c-span is really wonderful. i want to welcome tonight kevin mattson, and we're celebrating the publication of his book "just plain dick." how many of you were around when the checkers speech was given?
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and i'm sure many people in the audience tonight will also have been around in the tv audience. it is -- it brings back a lot of memories, and it's particularly appropriate that this is the night before an election, and this book is about the 1952 election and america and the context of the 1952 election, and kevin mattson will tell us about it. there's a nice tradition at "politics and prose" having wonderful stuff the night before the election. we were talking 12 years ago, the discussion of arguing the world, which was a discussion with daniel bell, irving crystal, irving howell, matt glazer, and four years ago we had a new york review book and some of the contributors,
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elizabeth drew, michael tinasky and others were talking about the problems that whoever the new president would be was likely to face, and anticipating an obama win that night, there was some pr pressscience of the filibuster used to block things i've had the good fortune to read 0 lot of kevin mattson's books and he is a wonderful history yap of postwar liberalism. he tells it in ways that are very perceptive. he avoids the fashionable trends to make sure he gets underneath things. so he is not a revisionist.
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and he writes about other periods as well. including par tis par -- partic- and upton sinclair, and you've read though o'judge" and we're all too young to remember "end poverty in california," but kevin provides a rich, rich, history of 20th century american history in the context of our larger scheme of things. so, let's welcome kevin mattson and "just plain dick. ." [applause] >> thanks for that wonderful introduction and always a pressure to be at "politics and prose" one of my favorite places to be. what i'll do is talk for a while
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and then obviously be eager to entertain questions that you might have about the book. and about its relationship to contemporary politics or what have you. what brought me to write this book was i had always heard the term "checkers" throughout my life. a checkers moment, a checkers speech. and i really wanted to understand what that meant to understand the speech, in its origins, and also to put it in a kind of water context. so that's what i began with. i think it's in some ways one of the most important speeches in postwar american history, and is certainly had a lot to do with explaining the rise to influence of richard nixon and that in and of itself tells us that it had a lot to do with a lot of contemporary american politics because of nixon's influence on our contemporary political culture. what i really want to do is i wanted to write history in the
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form of a novel. all the characters are real. the events are real. but i wanted to tell it from a novelist's perspective. it has at its center a mad man. in fact i originally wanted to have mad man in the title or the subtitle of the book. my editor frowned upon that. i'm actually using the term not the way nixon will late year it to describe this foreign policy in the way that caufield describes him in the which isache novel, catcher in the rye, which documents a progression towards a nervous breakdown. richard nixon is undergoing a nervous breakdown during the story, thinking of himself in that sense of being mad, and all the connotations that term had, and he knows he is on the cusp of either making or breaking his national political career, the moment he rescues his career from that moment onwards.
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real noir feeling to the book. he is a nnoirish character and i wanted to tell a spence -- suspense story. there's a very tight internal structure the book. at it kind of a slice of history, looking at a moment. it starts with nixon's rise to national popularity, being put on the ticket during the spring of 1952. follows the conventions of the summer. these convention one of the hat set of conventions where things were actually determined at conventions. television is starting to take over conventions but there's actual serious decision making, and i go into the scandal in september that becomes the basis for why nixon has to give this speech, and then obviously the
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speech itself is the culmination of the book or, at least, a high point of the book, because the book then also falls out the election itself, which, as some of you probably know, was a landslide election for the republican party in 1952. it's clearly aphonies formative election where the pep -- republicans seized the presidency which it had not had for quit some time. nixon begins as a nervous, what i call an inside dopester, using a term that david reisman, the sociologist coined, trying to navigate his way in national politics. he moved from being a nervous person, approaching a nervous breakdown, to becoming a supreme confidence man. a person who feels very confident in his own salesmanship of politics. as all ideally good novels have, this has a great, i think, set of secondary characters. nixon is enough to sustain it, but there are also some really
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wonderful secondary characters. obviously dwight eisenhower himself, who comes off as a kind of sad and tragic figure in this book. he starts off as the kind of general on a white hours who come -- white horse who comes back to redeem the public and slap back corruption of the truman administration and return the public to its ideal values and also just someone who winds up going further and further to the right and play -- placating the right. and the relationship between nixon and eisenhower is a very curious one and kind of a father-son element, and there's a lot of pundits who enter the book, including joe alsop and there's pat nixon, pat nixon is a prop to dick nixon, quite
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literally during the speech. she is sitting there nervously, not knowing what he is going to say. she is crucial into the strategy of making her husband look normal. he talks about her being a normal suburban house wife but there's a fascinating think about pat nixon, and she is weirdly open about the fact that she doesn't really seem to like politics, and seems to even have some kind of trepidation about being with her husband. she writes a puff piece for her husband titled "a wonderful guy" and she says, dick doesn't do anything in a half hearted manner so i know we're in for a rugged time. this isn't a piece that is supposedly a celebration of his -- and she is worried about him, about what her life is going to be, and things like that. you get a real sense that with
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both eisenhower and pat nixon that politics transformed people in sometimes ways they don't necessarily want. another character is joe steph mccarthy, running in 1952 for re-election. his tough man veneer, the sort of macho character he representses nixon in some ways wants to mimic and imbibe as him own. his greatest campaign that joseph mccarthy makes one of the most vicious and i think in some ways -- it's a vicious election, but mccarthy actually -- it's during 1952 election where he said if somebody would only smuggle me board the democratic campaign special with a baseball bat in my hand, i'd teach patriotism to
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little adlai. or sometimes he calls him algier, like algier hiss, a communist spy. and there's norm yap vincent peal, who helped advice nixon on his mid-:-to. one of the behind the scenes guys giving advice to richard nixon to engage not we call telepopulism, and charlie chap children chaplain pass -- was bolted out of the country, and there's also obviously another central character, the foil to richard nixon and to dwight eisenhower, and that's adlai
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stevenson himself. he backs throughout the course of the story a fey egghead, an intellectual entering politics. he had a very noble vision of politics. anybody hearing these word will be surprised by them in his acceptance speech in his 1952 convention, he talked to his fellow democrats and said, we shouldn't just worry about winning the election. we have to worry about how it is won. how -- listen to this language -- how well we can take advantage of this great opportunity to debate issues sense my and civilly. better we lose the election than mislead the people. at it time to talk sense to the american people. noble as all get out, but also kind of sending a softball to richard nixon and dwight
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eisenhower's plate and they can knock out. and there's a shot from the stage and there's a hole in the shoe. a guy who never gets control over the situation and of course in the end loses. so the book is kind of written like a novel and these characters enter in and out with the central character who is undergoing a nervous breakdown. i make a fair amount of richard nixon's psychology, and i know that's not farcable to psychologize a character, but, hey, it's richard nixon. and i open the book by trying to imagine myself getting inside the mind of richard nixon. during this campaign -- i'm just going to read you one paragraph of the opening. this is where i'm trying to say, this is what it would have been like if you could read his brain waves in 1952 and put myself in his mindset. a lot of what he is experiencing
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is a career crisis, and anybody who was had a career crisis can do some method acting and get into what it must have been like for this young man on the rise. here's the first paragraph of my imagined internal monologue. goddamn bastards want me out. they want to sack my political clear, they don't have much on me but they'll use what they have. these slugger and liberal president. i'm slumping in a chair on my train just rattling along, heading out of california. my fair state, towards the soggy center of oregon and all i'm hearing from tom fat little man who bubbles with fine political advice is that the press boys are going wild. i could feel my eyes glancing back in he headline in the new york post, secret man's trust fund keeps nixon in style far beyond his salary. that was one bastard of a headline and that's the point at which the cries is -- crisis is -- i'm trying to get into the
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mindset of richard nixon and tell the story in part through his eyes and to an extent being sympathetic to a guy who is undergoing a break down and a career killing moment in what we all take to be an important political career. so i wanted to use a novelistic approach and also wanted to tease out big themes by telling the story, and what i figured i would do now is just kind of tell you about some of those big themes, probably of interest to people who i think go to places like "politics and prose" and are interested in politics and ideas. it's very clear that this -- i mean, i assume that this speech that nixon gives, and this moment in american history, has a lot to tell the contemporary -- our contemporary political world. one thing to keep in mind about the checkers speech is that nixon will be asked later in life, what do you think about
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the checkers speech? people still remember you've by the checkers sphynx even after your presidency. and he always said the checkers speech was my moment. it was make or break. if i came through the other side and i failed, my entire political career would have been ruined. i would not be on the national political stage. there's some of white house -- of us who would say --... >> it's a crucial moment in his career and in america's history. the big them toes you see in this speech and then the broader story, working through the election, are kind of -- i think of four that i will just be focusing on. i'll be very brief. and give enough time for questions. first off, the obvious background of the cold war ask there's a kind of new style of conservative visioning of foreign policy that i'll explain.
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there's an enormous divide in the republican party in 1952. this is always a very divided party but the tensions within the republican party that the speech and the election point to are very important. the third thing i think is perhaps most important is the american tradition of populism. and what richard nixon is doing the populist. and it's about the rocking socking politics. and nixon things it should be about a fight and being tough and that has a long, lingering impact on the way we think about politics today. so let me just go through these four issues briefly, and kind of elaborate on each a bit. with the cold war, there's an obvious background that is going on throughout the book, and the obvious thing that is happening is that we're in the midst of the korean war, and the korean
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war is a war is that is two years old, doesn't seem to have any end in sight, and the body count is going up, and it's one of the many reasons why hari truman is not a very popular president as he is planning to leave the white house. dwight eisenhower, during the election, during his campaign, will make a famous statement which he says, i will good to korea, and most people think that's what pushes the eflex the direction that he definitely had it kind of sewn up. it's kind of similar to what nixon will say later, i have a secret plan toned the vietnam war. dwight eisenhower didn't have anything in mind other than to say i'll go to korea and settle the war. don't worry about the war if i'm elected president. does him a lot of good. but there's also a huge debate going on how to fight the cold war that this book examines throughout the course of this
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electoral cycle. i don't deal much with the liberal containment side of this. that's adlai stevenson or dean atchison. i'm more interested in the hyper charged emotionalism that conservatives brought to foreign policy and fighting the cold war you hear this hive charge emotionallallism throughout stories i tell in this book. mostly when richard nixon is constantly attacking atchison and adlai stevenson. you you hear about roleback and liberation, and these are key words in conservative republican discourse about foreign policy, and in fact dwight eisenhower uses the term "crusade" throughout the campaign, and some people think, is he eluding to those things like the
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crusades? he is trying to talk to the center. one of the key allies of richard nixon, who gets discussed here because his big book comes out during the spring of 1952, is whittaker chambers, who publishes a book and they were allies when richard nixon was taking don algier hiss and nixon does a lot to promote chambers' book and it's interesting to note what chambers -- how chambers conceptualizes the cold war in "witness" that comes out in 1952. i will quote from the book. for chambers, the west had to discover, and i quote, in suffering and pain, a power of faith, which will provide man's mind at the same intensity with the same two certainties that communism provide, that is, a reason to live and a reason to
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die. if the west fails, this will be the century of the great social wars. if it succeeds, this will be the century of the great wars of faith. there's a real attempt to put the cold war on a religious basis, fervorred emotional basis and that's something nixon is very big on in his support of chambers and in his attack on stevenson and atchison, and most clearly articulated by joseph mccarthy. who is also a chief ally of rich nikschon, and who eisenhower feels very uncomfortable and awkward around and yet will go to wisconsin and campaign with mccarthy. very willing to do something some people thought should have been seen as below him. with mccarthy, the way you fight matters more than the fight itself or more than the cause itself. it's the style in which you identifying really matters a great deal. you want to hit your enemy hard. one of the things i make a fair
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amount out of in the book -- i'm a historian who likes to go -- i very interested in pop culture and how it comes into our politics. one of the chief people i deal with to tease out this emotionally charged tough vision of fighting the cold war, is john wayne. john wayne goes independent in 1952, breaks from the studio system and makes his very own films. has anyone seen big jim mcclain? it's a great movie to go and see, and in fact if you have time tonight, if you go to youtube and put into the bongs, john wayne beats up come -- commies, you'll get the final scene because it's a truly enjoyable moment. what the storyline -- comes our
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during the time the election is heating up, and by the way, john wayne is a political character. he is very big in the re-elect mccarthy movement. he is also asked after the convention, hey, what do you think about the ticket? and mccarthy says, perfectly, i think that dick nixon will make a fine vice president. no mention of eisenhower because he doesn't like eisenhower. that's joseph mccarthy but that's the person that wayne is big nest port of. and big jim is a story of a tough guy, big jim, constantly mentioned he is 6'3" or something like that throughout the movie. he is working for the house on american activities committee. this is big jim. and big jim goes out to hawaii to break up a communist spy ring. that is mostly made up of doctors in hawaii. and in the end what he does is
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he finds where these guys are having their meeting and rushes into the meeting and quite literally beats the communist out using his fists in a big fight, and then what transpires is he follows the story out and says they went back, testified to the committee, and they got off, okay? and he starts to say something along the lines of, maybe the constitution isn't all that great. maybe these congressional committees aren't the right thing to do. maybe we should just bare knuckle it with communism. have a few more fistfights and less congressional committees investigating and it's that gruff-macho style that wayne personifies greatly and mccarthy exemplifies -- that richard nixon tries to take up and make part of his own view of the colored war. -- the cold war. when the first scandal breaks and nixon is getting money from
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these wealthy businessmen to fund his campaign, richard nixon says, it's a communist plot. they're out to get me. i always said if i hit it hard against the communist they could come back and get me. most people kind of tried to encourage him not to take that tact because there's no basis for it. but there are funny things where, during a protest, young kid from your old organization, goes to a protest and says, -- holds up a sign that says, s-h-h-h, anyone who mentions the $16,000 is a communist and that is the tactic that richard nixon takes. i fought them hard. now they're coming back to get me. that line ands why the scandal has emerged this way. yet you also notice, if you follow nixon -- i goss this out of the archives -- was coming across a speech that richard nixon makes in oregon, after the
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checkers speech, and he is feeling kind of strong about his standing. he goes to oregon and he has this line in a speech that i don't think gets much treatment in other stories about the 1952 election. he makes this wild speech. he says, consider where we are in the pacific northwest. let me tell you. that other koreas could come even closer. they could reach right into our country's heartland. they could bring the bombing and carnage right here if our drift towards disaster is not halted. only dwight eisenhower can stop the impending invasion by the mouth of the columbia river or one state out of anchorage, a alaska, and this guy thinks the invasion of the united states is imminent and is warning his listeners this could actually
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happen. this this the vision of the colored war and it's a long-lasting story. this is not a vision of foreign policy that has dropped out of the republican party by any means. in fact it's gotten much stronger. there's also a struggle within the republican party. this is the second issue. it's not just about the foreign policy debates, which there are people who are trying to go towards the left vision of the cold war and towards the kind of center. it's also a hard-line, right-wing outlook within the republican party that is most clearly symbolized in taft's run for the presidency against eisenhower during the primary campaign, taft loses but there's an interesting conversation where he says to eisenhower after congratulating him on victory, the theme he wants
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eisenhower to pursue is that lisch is being threatened by creeping socialism in every domestic field. that there is a kind of totalitarianism invading american poll sicks, and in fact eisenhower takes this language up. much more than we really realize, this hard right, strip the new deal, because the new dole is interchangeable with a version of either socialism or to totalitarianism. this hardline lang becomes difficult once nixon has to face up to the thing that gets him into trouble, which is a problem we put into the category of campaign finance problem, taking money from people who have a direct connection with american politics. and another part of the populism
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and the populist strain in american politics. and this brings us to the heart of the speech and what the speech is all about as you all know the checkers speech is now synonymous with richard nixon saying, i'm an every man, an ordinary guy. these are the lines that most people will quote back to you is the republican cloth coat his wife pat nixon wore, which meant he didn't have a mink coat, which is the illusion to the truman administration has been bribed by bring mink coats into the white house. i'm an ordinary guy. pat would look wonderful in everything, in her republican cloth coat. in a lot of the speeches -- some people remember it. sometimes it's hard to remember that a lot of this is documenting what he has and what he possesses, his car, his house, and then, of course, the dog. and the dog is at the center of his kind of attempt to make himself into an ordinary,
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average male. that's the kind of central theme of the whole speech. checkers the dog is the character that is obviously central to the speech. and it's during the speech that he -- help he is giving the speech, i watched the speech so many times now i could also do it verbatim but he transitioned and he does a think where he pinches his nose, goes like this, and he says, one other thing i probably should tell you because if i don't they'll say this about me, too. we did get a gift after the election. a man heard my wife mention our youngsters would like to have aing to and believe it or not we go a message saying they had a package for us. we went down to get it. it was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate. sent from texas. black and white, spotted, and our little girl, trisha, named it checkers. kids lining all kid love the dog and i just want to say this
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right now do and there's the char ton heston moment -- regardless what they say about it, we're going to keep him. that's the central thing that nixon talked about and get the name for the speech. nixon was very knowingly taking a line from fdrs famous speech in which he incorporated his own dogs, and nixon thought it would be great to kind of piss off the democrats more by taking their great leader's own words and flipping them around to defend himself. and what nixon is doing, is divorcing the pop list tradition which is rooted in the struggle in the late 9th century amongst small farmers and trying to channel their hatred of bank and real estate people, who are kind of keeping the small guy down, keeping the small farmer in a state of being opressed. nixon discovered he is getting money from real estate interests, from banking
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interests, from oil interests, and so what he does very cleverly, and with a great deal of success, he makes populism into a style. and almost a free-floating style, and about appearance and who he is as a person, his own -- who he is in terms of his ownership. about coats and cars, not about policies that would actually tame, perhaps, the things the original pop list wanted to do something about. he is also very good at tying this into his long-held kind of feeling of resentment. he hates these -- what makes him a western boy is his hatred of the eastern elite hates the fact he cooperate go to an i've areying reinstitution and he wasn't part of the circles, and he also tied that into another strain, a very strain of antiintellectualism. this term egghead is everywhere in 1952 and at it the way in
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many ways adlai stevenson is attacked. and nixon is very good at presenting himself as authentic -- i know this is hard to miami. he really does come across with the speech as authentic and sincere, kind of frank capra, and nixon was a person who was never comfortable in his skin to come off as authentic and sincere -- and believe me i've read the telegrams, this is how he is perceived. people say he captured my heart. he brought tears to my eyes. i knew he was true, by watching him on television. this stuff is throughout the telegrams and letters he gets. it's amazing that guy like this could actually pull that off, and he does very well. and what is interesting also about this is that this whole notion of him being authentic is obviously all acted out on stage
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set in a television studio. so this whole notion of there are being some sort of authentic person itself is already -- you have a sense of being staged. and life magazine writes a story about the clerks speech and his success later, and life magazine says it was almost as if the whole thing was scripted by hollywood. it was too good to be scripted by hollywood. it was to believable. and really kind of weird theme of being -- him being authentic and also recognizing his authenticity itself is staged for the hearts of americans. ice 'hour will afterwards say that dick nixon seizees the heards of the american in a speech in which he said, yes, i'm keeping you as vice president and you're a wonderful guy. this is a whole idea of the telepopulism. one of the things nixon does in the speech, very, very knowledge blue goes around the media. it's a direct address to the american people.
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and is told very clearly by his advisers and knows himself, the media is going to kill you. of you let people ask you questions and they're the snooty eastern journalist, just go around them. and that was a very emotionally charged moment in political speechmaking. the final thing is the style of politics that comes out after the speech is a success, and nixon continues to campaign. nixon had always wanted to run the campaign in a certain way, and part of the story i tell is how nixon basically says, this is how we should run the campaign, and eisenhower says i'm not sure i'm comfortable with that. by the end of the story eisenhower takes hi vice president at his word. this is the way nixon originally envisions the campaign. this is something i discovered in the archives, a letter to a
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fundraiser. a person who is helping to fund his campaign. this campaign is to be -- some people want this campaign to be conducted on a so-called high intellectual plane. there's a republican desear to do that. i think that's actually a smack at adlai stevenson -- we should letby gones beby-gones and not point out the past mistakes of the truman administration and we have two good candidates for president, and in short a little nicey nice powder puff dual, and that language, there's a lot -- if you read a lot of the language in 1952, there's always this undertone about home osexuality in adlai stevenson. this notion hearers divorced, never got remarried issue what's up with that. maybe he doesn't leak the girls to much and that's what nixon -- you don't want a nicey nice powder puff cool. you want the american people --
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richard nixon says we're not going to run that nice campaign. ours will be straight from the shoulder language that any american can understand without resource to dictionaries. we're going to have a tough campaign harassments going to be a rocking, socking campaign. and you see this, they constantly try to link up -- eisenhower and nixon try to link up their come pain to football events. college football -- if there's a college football event going on, eisenhower is there. if there's a football event going on, nixon is going to be there. the love football question the metaphor football players, and it's right after nixon has given this speech in which eisenhower has said, okay, you're going to stay on, we're going to identifying this together, that nixon finally has a moment, sitting across from icen hours
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hour in his car, and he says to eisenhower of the speech has gone off and eisenhower praised him, this is just like war, general. our opponents are losing now. they mounted a massive attack against me, and they have taken a bad beating. it's at this moment that we fight and go for the jugular. you don't let up. and this is really very much the kind of style of campaigning that richard nixon became known for throughout his political career. not just then. this is the sort of thing i want to tease out with this book, is to get at the sort of cultural version of politics that richard nixon has, and i think it's a cultural and political vision we're still with today. the whole kind of taking up populism and divorcing it from any sort of economic vision and making it about a personality, about whether or not a person is likeable or ordinary, average american. that's very much with us. the divisive political
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campaigning where you're trying to drive your opponent off the cliff, is clearly still with us, a form of politics that is codified in the checkers speech and we're still living with today. that is why i wrote the book. i tried to write this in a way that tells it from the vantage point of both a person who is a historian but also someone who is trying to write it in a kind of hopefully entertaining sort of novelistic approach, and that's where i'll stop, and i'm sure, knowing that people here -- there are some questions that you probably have of me, and i'm happy to take what you have to ask. [applause] >> i wish they were skyped, your courses so we could mix the politics and the culture. we're going to use the microphone which is over here. this is so the viewing audience
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can hear your question as well. these events are recorded here, so people who couldn't come tonight can also be able to get the benefit of the event. so, for those who have questions or brief comment, please go to the microphone,, and if you're comfortable, tell us your name. >> i have a request, actually, just for some background. more background on the scandal itself and the atmosphere and all the legal background on campaign finances at that point in time and how the public felt in general about campaign finance, and taking money, getting support, financial support, from the people, rich
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people and from the industries that you named. what was it like then? what was the responsibility of presidential candidates then as far as disclosing their sources and so forth? >> there's nothing -- nixon has lawyers look at what the fund was really about, who was contributing to it, how they contributed to it. whether or not there were any demands tied into their giving up money, and the lawyers came up with -- of course, some of us being relatively cynical, said he was completely innocent. most of the law about campaign finance were laws that had been passed in the progressive era and there wasn't a lot of attention paid to campaign finances. this kind of introduces the campaign finance question very quickly. i don't think there was anything
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illegal. i don't think it passes the smell test. people looked at it suspiciously. by the letter of the law, it wasn't illegal. and that was clear. and one of the parts of the story that gets messy is that adlai stevenson had a fun that was somewhat similar to knickson's fund and once that emerges, nixon is taking money from rich guys and that makes him exceptional, goes away. there's nothing illegal about it by the letter of the law. doesn't pass the smell test, and the question is, is nixon influenced by the money? there are ways to see connection between those who give him the money and the legislation he fought for as a senator up to that point and as a congress person. there's clearly some sense that you have kind of rowe real estate, antipublic housing policies that nixon was doing there were a lot of real estatemen giving him money.
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i think nixon would have down those things without the money. this is a guy who is really ideological committed to stripping the new deal as much as you could, getting rid of public housing. he would have done that without the money. but the way it was perceived at that time, followed the divisive nature of politics. liberals said it shows nixon is corrupt and is taking kickbacks. most americans when they're polling them at this time don't seem to be all that aware of what's happening with this. right? they have some sense of the money but not a detailed understanding. most of the legs on the bangs -- books is quite old but he is not ever found doing something that is illegal and something that kicks him out of politics. >> what was his response to the charge? or what does he say? >> he doesn't. at it amazing. the speech itself really is an
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amazing evasion of the original charges. it is a classic, he lies, and just doesn't really have anything much to say about the original charge that got him into trouble. so, he immediately kind of takes and it says, okay, you've heard these charges how i'm corrupt. the beginning of the speech, again, having seen it probably too many times, he gets really tripped up at the beginning of the speech and starts saying, if i did do that it would be really bad, and if someone took money they should be kicked tout of politics. and you tart thinking, where is he going with this? seems to be fumbling. but he very quickly moves into something, i'm doing something here that has never been done before. i'm going to open my books and show you what i have and prove i'm not a rich map. and -- rich man. and the charms are jumped over and he is back into, i'm a
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populist, the map of the people rhetoric that the speech becomes known for. >> thank you. >> yeah. >> on the campaign finance, i think it's fair to say that it wasn't much of an issue at that time, and there was not any real -- the unfortunate of campaign finance laws existed had atrophied, and that didn't change until we had real disclosure beginning in the 1972 campaign, in which nixon ended up the committee to re-elect president nixon ended up violating the law, in all sort office serious ways, and tried to prevent disclosure they had some responsibility for. so, what you had here was in the beginning these secret contributions, no one knew who
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the $500 limited contributions were. >> he does turn it over. >> but at the beginning didn't know it. and so he used disclosure as a way of showing his innocence. >> that's right. that's exactly right. yeah. they do -- he knows he has a list of people -- he at first tries to say, maybe we don't need to tell people who these people are and his advisers say no, you have to give a list. and he gives a list, and they all look like the type of people you expect to see giving him money, bankes, oil people, people who hated the new deal and wanted him to do something about it. but so disclosure comes the way he can evade it. >> but there's an irony to it, too. because by disclosing, he is following the brandeis dictum that sunlight is the great
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disdisinfectant, and uses the principle to clear himself up. >> you talked about pat nixon saying, my husband is a regular guy, which today sounds like what campaign wives do. was it unusual or a break? >> i think she's -- again, one of the things that is funny about the story, after the speech occurs, there will be these people who are journalists following the campaign, and they tart to say, it's almost as if richard nixon is running for president. he is getting bigger people turning out for him. and i say that because this is a vice president. not the president's wife. i think it's -- i think it's a peculiar thing that she is so prominent for being a vice
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president's wife. i don't think there's a lot of examples in which -- i mean, perhaps i'm wrong. not a lot of examples where that happens. she is important, i think, mostly, again, as kind of a prop. he -- and anybody who has concluded him a question about what is the nature of their relationship, don't think it's very good. when he goes up to -- she didn't even know he was really going to be potentially chosen, and there's a story that she is sitting at cafe with her friends watching tv and the announcement comes on, and she is like just taken a bit out of a sandwich and this food flies out of her mouth and says, oh, my god, my husband has just been chosen as vice president. so she runs back. he is woken up. he is asleep and told he has been chosen. he gets into a limousine, gets driven to the convention, and they both approach -- go to the podium and there's this moment where he is like, giving his
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kind of acceptance, and she comes up to give him a kiss, and he just does that sort of thing. just kind of completely ignores her. i don't think it's a good relationship but i do think that one of the things that nixon's people knew was because steven son looked suspicious, because he was divorced and his ex-wife is actually during the campaign saying, i'm going to vote republican, because she is doing that and there's questions about why does he have -- why does he come off as being fay or elfin, nixon's people know one of the things they should do is get pat out there and to keep hammering home this guy is normal. he likes to watch football. he does all these things that make him a normal guy. i think there's a real concerted effort on the part of nixon's handlers to push her front and center.
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>> also off track but could you comment on the evolution of the republican party today and how richard nixon might fit into it, and also i can't resist asking your impressions about ohio and the state of -- >> that's my home state, yeah, yeah. my wife is guilt-tripping me for not being in ohio right now, and working on the campaign, which she is doing a lot of work on right now. it's a good question. a great question. one that i think -- you often -- as a historian, you're often -- well, tell us what this tells us about today and there's part of you that says, i'm glad that question has been asked. and you get a little uncomfortable because we live in very different context, and i give that as my forewarning. i personally think that this sort of aggressive cold war foreign policy that is central to this book, the kind of language that liberation -- the kind of characterization of
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containment as being wimpy and defensive. i think that was the central underlying but suppressed element in that debate between obama and romney on foreign policy. i think romney -- i read a few -- about that debate and one of the things i went back and read was romney's speech in virginia where he made the most -- the kind of boldest statement on foreign policy. that is a rough speech. people who wanted romney, should read that. that the speech where he said we should be do much more about syria, keeping more troops in iraq, and then it keeps coming back to this notion that obama is leading this appalling -- apology tour and he doesn't believe in america. and i think that language about criticizing the democrats on being wimpy on fighting the fight against communism issue
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there's a direct line and the use totalitarianism and communism, and the tea party language of today. so i do think that there's a lot of kind of similarities, but what is remarkable to me is that -- what i guess is obvious to me is that mitt romney cannot do what richard nixon did. he can't paint himself as an ordinary guy. he can't good back and say, look at my car and look at my house, it's an ordinary looking house and i have this nice little wife. it's just not going to work. so i think the populist thing, if it had been a different candidate, the pop list thing would be retried by the republicans. but as far as foreign policy and domestic policy arguments, it's to a certain extent nixon
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1956redux. >> what about ohio? >> i think tis there's a gentleman staying at my house right now who is -- probably not going to be surprised that he is working for the obama campaign -- he is knocking on doors and i always ask him when he comes back at 10:00 at night, what how hearing and he will say over and over again, i'm not going to vote for that rich guy. is the kind of central thing he gets amongst people. these are targeted voteres. not people who most likely would be romney supporters but is hearing that over and over again. my sense in ohio is that it seems very familiar to me. it feels a lot like 2004. but with very -- not the same scenario. it felids like there are people who are not satisfied with obama. they're satisfied in part because he -- the auto industry rescue changed things in ohio. they're happy with that. unemployment, much lower in ohio than other places. but there's stiff discontent
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with obama and his leadership. but when it comes to, will you make the jump and vote for romney, that's where is he is not able to do it. i think of it sim layer to the way kerry felt. they said i don't like the war and bush and all this stuff. and then you would say, are you going to vote for kerry? and they would say, i don't know what kerry is all about. and i think there's some similarity to that. what i hear is what you hear. it seems to be that obama is a pretty solid, long-term lead over romney and my sense on the ground is that strikes me that the polls are probably right that way but i -- no predictions. >> kevin, i want to take you back to the -- we love this insight into ohio. but i want to take you back to the discussion about foreign
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policy in the republican party, because in the '52 campaign, george marshall was under tremendous attack, and we think of george marshall really as a heroic figure, and i think a lot of people thought that at the time as well. certainly harry truman did. and eisenhower did not defend marshall when mccarthy attacked him and this was seen as a betrayal. and that tension then came out when eisenhower made some early appointments in his administration and picked some classy people, like chip bowen to be ambassador to the soviet union, and the mccarthy crowd fought it. and so seems to still play itself out in different ways
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now. if you look at the new start treaty on arms control, which everyone in the military was passionately for, and yet it was very, very difficult to squeeze out current republican votes for that. so we still find different ways that this expresses itself and may have implications of -- for the next four years on foreign policy questions. >> you look at who romney wants to appoint, it's pretty bold, aggressive folks who i don't think would make the break with the kind of hard right wing in his own party. i think in 1952, you're absolutely right. there's so many stories in this book that i can't do justice to. >> that's why the book should be read. i had fun reading it.
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>> that's one over the best stories that eisenhower finds himself faced with two senators running he feels very uncomfortable about. one is joseph mccarthy, and the other other is the william jenner. jenner made mccarthy look like a pipsqueak when it came to the attack on marshall. called him a traitor to the country, selling the country out, and it's amazing to watch. eisenhower deeply admired marshall, and he was just completely and absolutely flabbergasted by this, and yet it comes time for eisenhower to go to indiana and campaign, and jenner is right up there, pumping his hand and keeps racing icessen hour's hand to rave at the people, and eisenhower is like, i don't know if i want to do this, but does it. and there's the famous moment in the eisenhower has a speech in which he is going to be giving on the train with mccarthy,
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and he has him -- part that i kind of pretty explicit attack on mccarthy saying, you've gone too far and you shouldn't dishonor, honorable men and that language, and his advisor says you have to take this out. and they try to play it up to him. it feels kind of like you're adding something on at the last moment. but we all know it was his chance to say i'm not with this side of my own party, and he doesn't do it. and that's the story of eisenhower. i think actually his presidency is different from the campaign, but during the campaign he is really very clearly kind of kowtowing to the right wing within his own party. >> thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you c-span for being here. thank you, kevin mattson, for giving us such a wonderful talk, and for your questions and

Book TV
CSPAN January 1, 2013 12:00am-1:00am EST

Kevin Mattson Education. (2012) 'Just Plain Dick Richard Nixon's Checkards Speech and the Rocking, Shocking Election of 1952.' (CC)

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